The Clamps. My favorite way to describe effective defense. There’s a difference between stifling a passing game and locking one down. Week 3 was an example of putting the clamps on a passing attack and locking it all the way down. What’s most beautiful is that the example was also a huge statement from our New Orleans Saints. A once wet paper bag of a defense has shown resilience and toughness for the first time in seemingly forever and I’m already looking to crown this young secondary with a nickname: The Crescent City Clamps.
PJ Williams Intercepts Cam Newton after breaking on a great read off a slant-flat combination.
The Saints and Panthers game was a game that will hopefully set a new tone and shift the culture of defense in New Orleans for years to come. In one game the Saints Defense had 4 sacks and 3 interceptions. Not bad for a team that’s still looking for a pass rush and adequate secondary play. The last time the Saints had 3 interceptions and more than 3 sacks in a game was against the Bears Week 15 of the 2014 season where they had 3 picks and 7 sacks. Prior to that? Against the Dolphins Week 4 of the 2013 season. Let’s hope to repeat this defensive presence against the Dolphins Week 4 of the 2017 seasons next week in London.
Late in the game, Cam tries to force a pass that’s deflected by Christian McCaffrey and Kenny Vaccaro leading to a Marcus Williams pick.
That said, the defense was atrocious during our first two games. Prior to last Sunday the Saints had given up 512.5 total yards per game. While the Panthers offense hadn’t really gotten into a groove by Week 3, every Saints fan knows that this is the team organizations tend to hit their stride against. Instead, the Saints defense did everything we expected they would struggle to do. With three top corners out, they forced 3 takeaways. With a starved pass rush, they brought Cam Newton down 4 times. Beyond that, some of those sacks were coverage sacks thanks to the secondary locking up and putting the clamps on Carolina’s receivers. Yes, Greg Olsen was out and Kelvin Benjamin left the game early which had some weight but let us not forget that we were down to our fourth, fifth, and a practice squad corner aside from PJ Williams. I think it’s fair to say that the matchup was pretty even there.
The following Carolina possession, Kenny Vaccaro bounces from one playing overtop on a crossing route to make the interception on an In route. Newton passed on a drag across the field to try and get first down yardage. Kenny makes him pay.
Because of the drought the Saints had at corner, they played a ton of three-safety looks. Something we’ve been waiting to see pay off so far this season. I counted 33 of 59 defensive snaps as three-safety sets- 56%. While in that look the Saints had 3 of their 4 sacks and 2 of their 3 interceptions. They also had a pair of pass break ups there, too. All told, three safeties or otherwise, this defense allowed only 15 passing yards in the first half- 124 total first half yards. They then closed the game allowing only 362 total yards (156 passing). Not the best, but still much improved from 470 and 555 in the first two weeks. The Saints defense also held Cam Newton to a QB Rating of 43.8. That’s an enormous departure from 143.0 and 139.6 in Weeks 1 and 2 respectively. The one element of this game that scares me personally is the effectiveness of the passing game to backs and TEs. Against New England the Saints gave up 264 passing yards to TEs and backs on 20 receptions. That’s 47% of the Patriots’ total offense that game. Not a lot of change in Carolina as the units gained 113 yards on 11 receptions which accounted for 31% of the Panthers offense. But still, improvements are improvements. It is worth noting that 101 of those yards came exclusively from Christian McCaffrey.
What’s crazy is that we’re all stoked about this performance, but there’s room to expect more. Despite putting up these improved numbers, there’s even greater potential on the horizon from the Crescent City Clamps. We still get to add Marshon Lattimore back soon and after the IR period, we’ll see Delvin Breaux back on the field. At that point, if the pass rush continues to improve and the second comings of Ken Crawley and PJ Williams holds steady, we might see this group take another leap. Hopefully it all starts in jolly ole England.